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Facial recognition

‘Lie detector’ system designed to filter migrants at EU borders slammed as pseudoscience

  • So-called deception detection system will supposedly analyse expressions of people trying to enter Europe to see whether they are telling the truth
  • Critics say there’s no evidence liars are so stressed they fidget or make subtle facial movements
PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 November, 2018, 7:31pm
UPDATED : Friday, 02 November, 2018, 9:14pm

The EU has been accused of promoting pseudoscience after unveiling plans for a “smart lie-detection system” at its busiest borders in an attempt to identify illegal migrants.

The “lie detector” involves the use of a computer animation of a border guard, personalised to the traveller’s gender, ethnicity and language, asking questions via a webcam.

The so-called deception detection system will analyse the face of the people trying to enter the EU to see whether they are telling the truth about their background and intentions.

They will also need uploaded pictures of their passport, visa and proof of funds.

According to the European Commission, the “‘deception detection’ analyses the micro-expressions of travellers to figure out if the interviewee is lying”.

Project’s coordinator George Boultadakis, who works for technology supplier European Dynamics in Luxembourg, said: “The system will collect data that will move beyond biometrics and on to biomarkers of deceit.”

Travellers who have been flagged as low risk by the lie detector will go through a short re-evaluation of their information for entry. Those judged to be of higher risk will undergo a more detailed check.

But the 4.5 million (US$5.1 million) project has been heavily criticised by experts.

Bruno Verschuere, a senior lecturer in forensic psychology at the University of Amsterdam, told Dutch newspaper De Volskrant the system is flawed.

“Micro-expressions really do not say anything about whether someone is lying or not,” he said. “There is no scientific foundation for the methods that are going to be used now. Once these systems are put into use, they will not go away. The public will only hear the success stories and not the stories about those who have been wrongly stopped.”

Verschuere said there was no evidence to say liars are stressed so fidget or make subtle facial movements.

Similar technology is being developed in the US, where lie detection is widely used in law enforcement, despite scepticism about its scientific utility in much of the rest of the world.